Leading article: Indefensible briefings

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One of the most striking revelations in the records released earlier this week of meetings between Government ministers and News International executives was that the Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, apparently gave Rupert and James Murdoch confidential briefings on Afghanistan. In extracting information directly from the Defence Secretary, the Murdoch family appears to have taken its Fox News brand rather literally.

But there is a serious point here. What was the purpose of these meetings? One must also question how appropriate it is for Dr Fox to give private briefings on the subject of defence to newspaper proprietors. There is a context here. Virtually every single title in Rupert Murdoch's international media empire threw its support behind the 2003 Iraq war. And thanks to a Freedom of Information request by this newspaper, we know that Tony Blair had three conversations with Rupert Murdoch in the month leading up to the invasion.

What we have here is another glimpse of the unhealthy level of access the press baron has enjoyed in our political system. We trust that this exclusive branch of Fox news will henceforth cease to broadcast.

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